Sales growth in April tempered by inflation woes

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Sector appeal demonstrated: like-for-like sales have improved for the seventh month in a row (credit: Getty/LeoPatrizi)
Sector appeal demonstrated: like-for-like sales have improved for the seventh month in a row (credit: Getty/LeoPatrizi)

Related tags Finance Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators

Managed pub, bar and restaurant groups in Great Britain achieved like-for-like and year-on-year sales growth of 6.9% in April 2023 against last year, according to the latest Coffer CGA Business Tracker.

The percentage rise marked the seventh positive month in a row for the tracker and was significantly higher than the figure of 1.4% in March, however, growth remains well below the current rate of inflation as soaring costs continue to impact consumer spending and businesses’ margins.

The tracker, which is produced by CGA by NIQ in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM UK, found April trading was boosted by public holidays, including Easter and the start of the early May bank holiday weekend. Good weather helped to draw consumers out to pubs, where like-for-like sales were 8.1% ahead of April 2022. Growth in the restaurant sector was fractionally behind at 7.6%, but bars had another difficult month, with sales down 9.1%.

Managed groups continued their strong post-Covid recovery in London, where April sales rose 10.4% year-on-year – just ahead of inflation. Sales growth beyond the M25 stood at 5.8%.

Impressive resilience

Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA by NIQ, said: “April’s trading figures show the impressive resilience and appeal of managed restaurant, pub and bar groups in a very challenging market.

“It’s particularly pleasing to see the sustained recovery in London, where Covid restrictions took a heavy toll on hospitality. Consumers clearly remain eager to eat and drink out, and we can be optimistic that their spending will increase when household bills start to ease but with inflation so high, real-terms growth remains elusive.”

Coffer Corporate Leisure managing director Mark Sheehan added: “Eating and drinking-out sales continue to lag inflation. Pubs and restaurants continue to see sales growth much of which is on the back of price rises.

“There is much innovation in the sector and competition remains strong. Inflation can breed inflation. Consumers are not surprised by price rises but operators need sales to at least keep up with costs and volumes to increase. While numbers continue to improve, we are not yet seeing this.”

Month without train strikes

RSM UK head of leisure and hospitality Paul Newman said: “A full month without train strikes undoubtedly contributed to central London pubs and restaurants enjoying like-for-like sales growth of over 10% for the first time since the end of the pandemic.

“Cost pressures might be easing but they haven’t gone away and the ability to trade without interruption is crucial if the sector is to take full advantage of rising consumer confidence.

“With rain having dented hopes for a bumper Coronation weekend, operators will be desperate for the sunshine forecast for the rest of this month to help save what many had optimistically been calling “mega-May”.

Sales figures were collected from 75 companies to help compile the latest tracker.

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